Retro Productions and The Bleecker Company, in association with The Arclight Theatre, present Milan Stitt's drama THE RUNNER STUMBLES, with an Off-Broadway run set to open Thursday, May 3 at The Arclight Theatre (152 West 71st Street). Peter Zinn, who helmed Retro Productions' revivals Michael Frayn's BENEFACTORS and Sally Nemeth's HOLY DAYS, directs.
Part courtroom drama, part whodunit, THE RUNNER STUMBLES is based on the true story of a nun's mysterious murder in a remote parish in northern Michigan in 1911 and the charge that her superior, Father Rivard, is her murderer. The action alternates among interrogations, testimony and scenes from the past to reveal that Father Rivard (Christopher Patrick Mullen), who had been banished to the small, up-country parish, fell in love with Sister Rita (Casandera M.J. Lollar); and when circumstances forced her to move into the rectory with him, his anguish became unbearable. Their relationship, inevitably, spelled tragedy, but not until the explosive and surprising climax of the play is the full extent of their sacrifice made clear.
Retro Productions' revival of THE RUNNER STUMBLES moves to Off-Broadway following an acclaimed Off-Off Broadway run in November 2011. In Back Stage, THE RUNNER STUMBLES was called a "smacking good play… credit Peter Zinn's lucid, subtle direction, and some splendid performances…. A play this good has no business being forgotten, and this Retro Productions effort does more than honorably by it. A Back Stage Critic's Pick."
The Off-Broadway ensemble includes original cast members Becky Byers, Nat Cassidy, Heather E. Cunningham, Casandera M.J. Lollar, Joe Mathers, Christopher Patrick Mullen, Alisha Spielmann, and Ric Sechrest.
The production has set design by Jack and Rebecca Cunningham; costume design by Viviane Galloway and Kathryn Rohe; lighting design by Jacqueline Reid; sound design and original music by Jeanne Travis; and fight choreography and special effects by Joe Mathers. Production Stage Manager is Ricardo Rust.
In 1976, Milan Stitt's THE RUNNER STUMBLES, directed by Austin Pendleton, premiered on Broadway and ran for nearly 400 performances, with the New York Times calling it "a love story about an impossible love… this is no dusty court room record, but a play about people who are entrapped by their own and one another's obsessions." A film version, released in 1979, was directed and produced by Stanley Kramer, starring Dick Van Dyke and Kathleen Quinlan.
Director Peter Zinn returns to Retro Productions, having previously helmed their productions of Michael Frayn's BENEFACTORS (NYITA nomination for Outstanding Production of a Play), Jack Hilton Cunningham's WOMEN AND WAR, and Sally Nemeth's HOLY DAYS, He wrote and directed the Off-Broadway hit RUMSPRINGA. He has written the book for the rock musical SMILE, currently being workshopped in NYC.
Retro Productions began producing "retro theatre" in 2005. Previous productions include Norman Krasna's DEAR RUTH; Michael Frayn's BENEFACTORS; Jack Hilton Cunningham's WOMEN AND WAR; William Marchant's THE DESK SET; Sally Nemeth's HOLY DAYS and MILL FIRE; Mark Medoff's WHEN YOU COMIN' BACK, RED RYDER?; Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith's THE TENDER TRAP; A.R. Gurney's WHAT I DID LAST SUMMER; Emily Mann's STILL LIFE; Doris Baizley's MRS. CALIFORNIA; and Casey Kurtti's CATHOLIC SCHOOL GIRLS. Retro Productions has garnered 17 New York Innovative Theatre Award nominations, with Kristen Vaughan winning an Outstanding Actress New York Innovative Theatre Award for her work in BENEFACTORS.